“When you work with integrity, you honor the Lord.”
— Chuck Swindoll
Today it is our pleasure to have this article by guest author, Cowboy Bob Sorensen. He has been an important part of this blog from the start, and he writes his own blog, Stormbringer’s Thunder.
It has been said that character is “who you are when nobody is looking”. While that seems to be true, I am going to delve deeper. Character is a bit far-reaching, and I believe that it encompasses areas of personality, opinions, preferences and so forth. Integrity, however, is a part of your character. It involves your moral fiber, core beliefs and your honesty. I take it further to include your spiritual values.
Where does the first level of integrity come from?
- Teachings from family
- Man-made religious edicts
Obviously, the pressures to conform to societal standards are enormous. These standards will naturally vary over time and geography. Personal hygiene standards in the Middle Ages were very different than we have today. Even so, bathing practices are different from country to country. In New Guinea, the expression, “I never met a man I didn’t like” took on a whole new meaning, if you catch my drift.
Teachings from Family
This gets complicated, because the family itself derives its values from many sources. Many of the values are also family traditions, and remarks like, “A Snigglefritz will never quit fighting!” or some such. If your family is patriotic, Conservative, leftist, (insert faith of your choice), dysfunctional or whatever, that will be added to the mix of influences that the family has on your core beliefs.
I have learned many things from the School of Hard Knocks. Sometimes from things I have witnessed or from talking to other people who related their own experiences. Naturally, some of my own peculiarities extend from my experiences. (For example, I am slow to trust, and believe that trust is something to be earned, not freely given. That is because I have been burned badly by misplaced trust. Others are more willing to give their trust. I wish them well.) Some experiences I have had influence my driving, business relationships, information that I give online and more.
The American educational system instills its own values into children. And let’s face it, most institutions of learning are bastions of leftism. Christians go into college and come out as agnostics or even atheists. Conservatives are humiliated if they take a stand, or lose their political “faith” and become leftists. Individual teachers can be good or bad, obviously, but in America, the teachers unions are so strong, they shape the views of the teachers as well.
Peers are a tremendous influence, both subtly and overtly. You want to please your friends, don’t you? And you certainly want to fit in and be accepted. This is where something I call “bandwagon convictions” come from. Someone you want to impress or have his or her approval may say, “I am a (whatever)”, or, “This is a great band!” Approval-seekers respond with, “Me, too!” and convince themselves that they believe what they just agreed with. The old adage of “follow the crowd” applies because individualism (or being a cowboy) falls by the wayside in favor of acceptance.
Yes, I know that I’m a class act, but that’s not what I mean here. In this case, “class” is your social or economic level. Speaking in generalities, poor people act differently than wealthy people. The “social circles” are different, amusements, activities, education levels (although education is there if people actually want to work for it) and so on. It is another form of peer pressure.
The most insidious form of peer pressure is “race”. I use it loosely, because “race” is not accurate. News flash, Sunshine: There is only one race, the human race. “All men are created equal” is true in that the differences are actually superficial when it comes to physical characteristics. The rest of “race” is (are you ready?) family, culture, class, friends, education… But the pressures to “be (whatever race)” are enormous, and people conform so they can act the way that their “race” is supposed to act.
I should add that the same kind of thing happens with national origin, and pressures to “be” like (insert national origin here).
In the interest of “full disclosure”, I have to let you know that I have disdain for philosophy in many ways. While useful for intellectual exercise, I am not interested in expending mental energy in analyzing, poking, prodding, puzzling and posing as a general rule. Since there are many schools of philosophy, and half-bighearted philosophers are easily found, I strongly recommend looking elsewhere for a foundation for your convictions and integrity.
Whatever religious institution you attend will have its own versions of the truth. Do you want to be a good (whatzit)? They you have to do this and that or be cast out. Man-made rules and edicts added onto the truth are more of a burden than a source of character-building.
It’s All Relative
It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that all of this is relative. These things are variable, and all of the influences change over time and/or circumstance.
We need a source for our values that is not variable. Everything else is subject to the times, opinions, polls, legislation, pleasing friends, mood of the moment and so forth.
“What doesn’t change, Cowboy Bob?”
The Bible. It is our anchor. “The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the word of God stands forever” (Isaiah 40.8). Hey, I had to be convinced that the Bible is reliable and true. After investigation, I overcame my own skepticism and accepted its validity, and that it means what it says. (To give evidences for the validity of the Bible is far beyond the scope of this article, and I can give you many entire Websites devoted to Christian and Biblical apologetics if you drop me a line).
As I see it, the reason that Western Civilization has not totally shifted its values completely off the map is because of people that stuck to the Bible’s principles. Now, before someone starts slinging that “religion starts wars and causes evil” nonsense, I’ll admit that people used God as a pretense for their own selfish ambitions. People have lied in the name of Christ, but that does not negate the truth of his teachings.
My point is that your integrity, the deep core values that should not change, should be rooted in the unchanging truth of God’s Word. Get into it, learn it, live it. Then you’ll have something to hold onto that will not change when trends in society or the values of your friends have shifted.
A real man stands by his integrity. His integrity has an unchanging, immovable core.
By the way, I said that “It has been said that character is ‘who you are when nobody is looking’. The same applies to your integrity. The thing is, there is never a time when nobody is looking. Knowing that God is watching and that I want to please him most of all keeps me doing the right thing.